Ahold Delhaize USA’s Retail Business Services (RBS) arm has opened a checkout-free employee grocery outlet inside the Giant Direct e-commerce fulfillment center (EFC) in Philadelphia.
Salisbury, N.C.-based RBS said Thursday its “Lunchbox” frictionless technology in the 450-square-foot store enables staff to buy fresh and shelf-stable food and beverages in seconds by scanning in to enter, shopping and walking out. Items available to the EFC’s 125 employees include sandwiches, salads, vitamin waters, milk, fruit cups, soup and snacks, among other offerings. The assortment will be adjusted as needed based on demand.
“This innovative technology was created to meet the needs of connected customers — or busy associates — whose lives are in constant motion,” Rom Kosla, CIO and executive vice president of IT at Retail Business Services, said in a statement. “Once an individual downloads the app, they can simply scan in, shop and walk out. It’s that easy. Shoppers can grab a snack, a salad, fresh fruit or even a carton of milk as they head home. It’s a particularly relevant capability for a location like this, where team members would otherwise need to travel off-site to purchase food products.”
Shoppers are enabled to make purchases at the store by scanning in via an RBS mobile app as they enter the store.
RBS began testing a 150-square-foot Lunchbox outlet in November 2019 at its office in Quincy, Mass., and then in January 2020 opened a 500-square-foot location at The Giant Company’s perishables distribution center in Carlisle, Pa., which had no cafeteria. A Lunchbox site also has been piloted at RBS headquarters in Salisbury. Products in the mini-stores are supplied by the local Ahold Delhaize USA supermarket brands, Giant in Philadelphia and Carlisle and Stop & Shop in Quincy.
The Giant Company opened the 124,000-square-foot, automated Giant Direct EFC on Island Avenue in Philadelphia last month. The facility serves online customers in the Center City and South Philadelphia neighborhoods and is slated to expand service to southern New Jersey communities.
“Following the successful implementation of this frictionless technology at our perishable distribution center in Carlisle, Pa., we’re excited to offer it to our team members at our Giant Direct e-commerce fulfillment center in Philadelphia,” commented Glennis Harris, senior vice president of customer experience at The Giant Company. “We know our team members will appreciate the broad assortment of snacks, meals, beverages and more, conveniently available day or night, without ever having to leave the building.”
With a curated selection of food, beverages and other groceries, Lunchbox enables shoppers to make purchases by scanning in via an RBS mobile app as they enter, selecting items and then walking out. Customers register ahead of time to set up an account to tally transactions and make payment, either through a credit/debit card or digital wallet. Shoppers receive a receipt on their smartphone immediately after exiting the store, which runs 24/7.
RBS partnered with systems integrator UST to develop the store, which uses autonomous store technology from Intel solutions partner CloudPick. Products removed from shelves are detected by artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, IoT devices and sensors, and edge computing optimized by Intel CloudPick. Anonymous body skeletal tracking connects the products taken to the shopper who removed them from the shelf.
“In the age of e-commerce, there are many opportunities for companies to evolve and better serve shoppers,” stated Mahesh Athalye, senior director of retail platform and solutions for UST, which along with partners provided the AI and machine learning solution and physical infrastructure for the store. “Combined with AI/ML technology and purpose-built smartphone applications, solutions like this will help deliver frictionless experiences for shoppers seeking a quick, touchless experience.”
Available for implementation in any space in a matter of weeks, the “walk-in, walk-out” solution can be purchased through Aliso Viejo, Calif.-based UST to power retail outlets that take the place of vending machines or a full-service cafeteria. RBS has said that other potential locations for the technology include airport and train stations, office buildings, college campuses, convention centers and gas stations.
Zaandam, Netherlands-based Ahold Delhaize, the parent company of RBS and Ahold Delhaize USA, already had been testing frictionless checkout concepts prior to the debut of Lunchbox.
In September 2019, the global food retailer announced a pilot of an employee-only, checkout-free micro store under its Albert Heijn grocery banner in the Netherlands. The 150-square-foot cashierless store uses “grab and go” technology from Santa Clara, Calif.-based startup AiFi, creator of the NanoStore, an auto-checkout, portable convenience store. AH To Go is located in front of the support office at Ahold Delhaize’s corporate headquarters in Zaandam. Then in November 2019, Albert Heijn deployed an AH To Go portable digital store at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport.